China will possibly have more nuclear warheads than the US by 2035, according to the Pentagon. If Beijing continues with the current pace of amassing nuclear weapons, it will have nearly a 1,500- strong stockpile in a little more than a decade, according to the US defense department's estimates.
"They've got a rapid buildup that is kind of too substantial to keep under wraps .... It does raise questions about whether they're kind of shifting away from a strategy that was premised on what they referred to as a lean and effective deterrent," a senior US defense official said, according to Reuters.
Less than three years ago, China was estimated to have about 200 nuclear warheads and the US expected Beijing to double that number by 2030. However, the US defense strategists concluded last year that China has already surpassed that milestone. Currently, the expectation is that China will have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.
The US has a stockpile of about 3,700 nuclear warheads, and it has deployed some 1,740 of them. If the Pentagon projection is accurate, China will have roughly an equal number of nuclear weapons deployed by 2035.
"What we've seen really in the past couple of years is this accelerated expansion ... We see, I think, a set of capabilities taking shape and new numbers in terms of what they're looking to pursue that raise some questions about what their intent will be in the longer term," a senior defense official said, according to CNN.
China has long argued that its nuclear arsenal is much smaller than those of the US and Russia. However, Beijing is not willing to talk about downsizing unless the US agrees to slash its stockpile to China's levels.
The details on China's nuclear pursuit were included in the 2022 China Military Power report, which was released on Tuesday.
Ballistic Missile Tests
The report also reveals that China carried out as many as 135 ballistic missile tests in 2021. This amounts more than all the ballistic missile tests conducted everywhere else in the world. China also conducted a hypersonic missile test in 2021, with the projectile flying 40,000 kilometers around the world, demonstrating the longest flight of any Chinese land attack weapon.
Secret Nuclear Silos
Under leader Xi Jinping China has been focused on increasing its military might. Xi said during the recently concluded Communist Party Congress that Beijing is determined to strengthen its strategic deterrent, a term that plainly means nuclear capability.
In 2021, the Pentagon said China was building new nuclear silos in secret locations. "This is the second time in two months the public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it," the U.S. Strategic Command said.